The Celtics have initiated step three of assessing the state of the team. Danny Ainge gave an array of newspaper and radio interviews to establish accountability and take the heat off Brad Stevens and challenge the players. Stevens himself went on 98.5 and weighed the degree to which he’s assessing the team tuning him out. Wyc Grousbeck rounded out the management trifecta on Wednesday — affirming full faith in Ainge and Stevens.
Stevens, in response, said he appreciates working for people who don’t ride the emotional wave.
That wave has become more of a straight line of dreadfulness lately, particularly on the defensive side of the floor as the Celtics melted down in consecutive second halves on Sunday and Tuesday. Danillo Gallinari — shooting 36.5% from the field in his worst season as a pro — drained his first eight shots from the field and finished with 38 points on 13-of-26 shooting. It marked the eighth straight game Boston allowed a 30-point scorer.
The Celtics found a way to dig deeper in spite of already losing 13-of-20, including six straight losses to teams below .500 coming in. Their offense has dipped to bottom-10 in basketball. They hadn’t yet given up a wide open layup in their own end on an in-bounds play though, which happened when Trae Young took the ball out of bounds underneath and passed to himself off Grant Williams’ back into a free lane to the rim.
Boston allowed 23 three pointers for the first time in franchise history with Gallinari making his first seven from outside and finishing 10-of-12. On another play in the third quarter, he caught a long pass in transition from Rajon Rondo that Grant initially tipped, then watched fall into Gallinari’s hands for an open layup. Young rolled the ball up the floor and picked it up against already-high zone defense from the Celtics to hit a three about six steps behind the three-point line.
The Hawks took a 40-27 lead in the first quarter, went up by 23 two minutes later after a 10-0 burst and never looked back in the first true wire-to-wire loss of the season for the Celtics. Boston narrowly won the third quarter 29-27, but never felt remotely close to getting back in the game as the ball turned over to Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall and Javonte Green in the closing quarter.
The loss would plunge the Celtics to fall into a tie with the New York Knicks for the seventh seed, which would force Boston to win a play-in tournament to maintain their playoff spot this year if they ended the season there. It marked the fourth straight loss with Kemba Walker resting on a back-to-back.
Boston played Robert Williams 14 minutes in what appears to be his restriction, getting outscored by 20 points with him on the floor. Jeff Teague started for the C’s in place of Walker, finishing with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists on 4-of-9 shooting, missing several layups in the lane. Tristan Thompson gritted out 13 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes. Aaron Nesmith aggressively pursued his shot and scored 13 points on 5-of-6.
The stars labored again. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 10-of-36 shooting and 1-of-14 from three. Tatum only recorded one assist in 32 minutes.
Brandon Goodwin broke the record for threes against a Celtics defense with 1:37 remaining on a catch-and-shoot above the arc.
The loss marked Boston’s final game on the road of the first half of the season, as they’ll return home for four more games at TD Garden before the all star break.